Innovative Radio Program Spreads Hope in Pakistan

Say “Pakistan” and people think the worst, because the news presents the worst. But Pakistan contains much beauty, much of interest and wonderful personal stories of hope.

Nadeem Awan, disabled since childhood, is one of those stories. A few years ago Nadeem began listening to a radio program in his city of Muzaffarabad in Azad Jammu & Kashmir Provence (AJK). The program, Syban (meaning shelter) has forged strong links with local aid, development and education institutions. Syban is broadcast for an hour a week on VOK FM Muzaffarabad and has a strong commitment to issues affecting people who live with disability. The program has achieved great recognition for innovative ways of promoting solutions to community-identified issues and of involving listeners on air in ways not before seen in Pakistan.

Nadeem says he never misses a Syban program. “I am a wheelchair user and what I am today is because of Syban. I do not have any word to (adequately) say thanks to the Syban team. I have learned to live independently because of Syban.”

HCR has provided training and coaching to the local Syban team who produces the program with funding from organisational partners. Following HCR’s community-centred radio framework, Syban has involved local people as contributors. Syban recently reached a milestone, delivering training workshops using manuals and materials developed by HCR but contextualised to the local cultural context.

Shahzad, Syban team leader, said the purpose of the recent training was to increase community participation by training listeners to co-host the Syban radio program and to interview local people about their experiences. “We have learnt this from HCR and Dr Ross James,” said Shahzad, explaining, “It is called ‘handing over the mic’ to local people who are not professional broadcasters but who can communicate to their peers”.

Pictured is Nadeem, who attended the workshop, being presented his training certificate by Radio VOK FM manager. Nadeem will be appointed as a Syban volunteer program host and reporter, and paid an honorarium for his work. Nadeem’s brother, Maqsood (slightly hidden behind Nadeem), received a local hero award by Syban in 2014 in honour of his dedication to his brother, assisting him in his daily life.

Radio VOK FM is now considering the suitability of some of the training participants for on air programs. Local journalists who saw workshop photos posted on Facebook complained to the station manager because he did not invite them to the training. The manager told Shahzad he switched off his mobile phone because there too many calls!

HCR’s Dr Ross James travels to Pakistan twice a year to provide coaching and consultancy to the Syban team, with funding from Syban partners.